Maintaining the status quo for dental care is not an option

Barry Cockcroft CBE, Chief Dental Officer for England, reports on the enthusiastic response to the Call To Action and the next steps in the process:

More than 200 people with an interest in how NHS dental services are planned and delivered gathered in London to take part in NHS England’s Call to Action for improving dental care and oral health.

I want to thank all of the delegates for their contribution on the day.

I was really encouraged by the energy in the room, and in how this was sustained throughout the day in table discussions and plenary sessions.

The discussions left me in no doubt that we have a broad coalition of partners who believe that we need to continue – and pick up the pace – on the reform of how NHS dental services are commissioned and delivered. In fact, a poll at the start of the meeting told us that 96% of delegates agreed that change was necessary.

We heard from a number of prominent speakers: Rosamond Roughton, NHS England’s national director for commissioning development, described the ambitions of NHS England in meeting the sustainability challenges faced by the NHS over the next ten years; Professor Jimmy Steele, author of the 2009 review into NHS dental services, reminded us of the pressing need to tackle the known inequalities that still exist in this country even though oral health has – generally – improved massively over the past 50 years; Dr Sue Gregory of Public Health England described the public health context of our aims and ambitions around this call to action; and Dr John Milne of the British Dental Association gave a view from the frontline on the ongoing contract reform process.

Something that was present in all of the presentations was support and encouragement for the aims of this Call to Action and an acknowledgement that maintaining the status quo is simply not an option in the interests of excellent care and outcomes.

But the main purpose of the day was to debate the issues amongst the delegates – and they really delivered!

We plan to publish a report on the outcome of the discussions in the next few weeks.

The call to action runs until 16 May and we still have plenty to do. I and Serbjit Kaur, Deputy Chief Dental Officer, are attending a number of local events across the country organised by area teams and dental local professional networks. We simply can’t attend them all, but I look forward to learning about these local discussions.

In the next few weeks NHS England plans to hold a number of focus groups so that our engagement benefits from the insights of as many interested parties as possible and I look forward to presenting our emerging findings to patient groups and our voluntary and community sector partners for their insight and expertise.

Implementing change is never easy, but it’s a lot easier when we work in partnership. In this regard the national event gives me great hope for what we can achieve together for people who use NHS dental services, now and in the future.

Barry Cockcroft

Barry Cockcroft qualified from Birmingham Dental School in 1973 and worked for 27 years in NHS general dental practice.

He was elected to the General Dental Services Committee of the British Dental Association in 1990, serving on many sub-committees and working groups before being elected vice-chairman in 2000.

He was appointed Deputy Chief Dental Officer for England in November 2002 and appointed as Chief Dental Officer in 2006.

In 2008 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Central Lancashire for his contribution to the dental profession.

He was awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours List of 2010.

A year later, Barry was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the Faculty of General Dental Practice.